Local Spirit, Family Defined

McRobert Distillery Whiskey BarrelWe’ve recently discovered we do have distilling blood in our veins, on research we are direct descendants of a Mr William John McRoberts. We’ll have more to say about his endeavours in our Historical American Distilling Connection 'Touch of History'section but here’s a small sample to wet your appetite.

William McRoberts: A Story in Five F’s
Escaping a brutal Famine in Ireland, bringing slaves to Freedom, experiencing two Family tragedies while rising to become among America’s most notable distillers, experiencing disastrous Fires, and subsequently facing Financial struggles, William McRoberts lived the kind of story from which novels are made.

Our whiskey will bring together hundreds of years of distilling experience from across the Globe, utilizing great Local Australian ingredients to create a spirit that has stood the test of time. Every bottle we distil will be a tribute to our Cincinnati ancestor who through necessity back in 1845 at the age of 21 left Ireland/Scotland to embark on a Great Whiskey Distilling career in North America.

McRobert Distillery pays respect to the Noongar people, traditional owners of the Armadale region who's ancestors walked this land long before anyone thought to make whisky here.  

Apart from Ian and Shane’s lifetime love affair of single grain Whiskeys the desire to create their own Craft spirits in this Great State of Western Australia went from pipedream to business plan in early 2017.

McRobert Distillery Whiskey BarrelShane had gained valuable experience over many years in the shadow/grey area of home distilling to the point that a bigger premises was required indeed a new location. What was to be a Rural setting left to his own devices on two to three hundred acres quickly changed to a legal approach at Ian’s insistence for obvious reasons, hence a new partnership evolved. An existing warehouse owned by Ian and his wife June (through a Family business of some 25 years) built in the 1970s in the Shire of Armadale was the perfect location to build a Craft Distillery.

Our approach was to create a state of the art Craft Distillery with the best advice and equipment available, then use quality local ingredients in a marriage of traditional time honoured methods, science, art and passion……for that perfect premium spirt(s).

And now the Australian chapter is about to start - with it in our genes we were born to make it our way and add to the wealth of distilled spirits for Australia and the rest of the world.  

Our search for that international advice lead us to a Mr Ian Smiley, then for equipment/design to his collage Mr Alan Dikty.  The people involved in the design, creation, construction and commissioning of this Distillery are significant in themselves. We have Mr Ian Smiley a world-renowned Craft Distillery Consultant from Canada who was a major contributor to Bill Owens 2009 “Craft of Whiskey Distilling" book along with Alan Dikty another contributing writer from ABT Tanks Chicago who is our Design engineer. These two gentlemen and their collages are coordinating the construction & quality control of our Distilling equipment through stainless steel fabrication giant Dayu. Bill Owens is the President of the American Distilling Institute (ADI) who heads the Craft Distilling movement in America.

McRobert Distillery CertussA substantial difference in our distillery compared with others will be the instillation of a state of the art gas powered German 600-TC Certuss Steam Generator + CVE, the first Australian compliant machine to be commissioned in this country. All three of our Steam appliances are powered by the Certuss Steam Generator, an incredibly powerful and efficient means of producing steam. Capable of heating the contents of the still (wash) to boil within two hours, expediting any distillation run from our 1000L pot still/expansion chamber, four plate whiskey column still.

We have the best advice the right equipment and will be trained in method & recipe development by one of the best, the Man himself Ian Smiley. A great combination for success and that perfect drop. Cheers. 

The McRobert ConnectionA touch of history

McRobert Family Australian Coat of ArmsIt can be an exciting venture, to trace ones family tree. The prospect of finding distant relatives who have lived exciting lives in exciting times can be reward enough. To discover a previous family member who not only shared one of your own passions but lived it, excelled at it and left their indelible mark on it, well that’s a confirmation of your chosen path that cannot be bought. When Ian and Shane cast into their lineage, they discovered that they are the direct descendants of a ‘Master Distiller’.  This man was William John McRoberts.
  
William John McRobetrts (born 1824) lived in a time that exemplified Darwins survival of the fittest theory. From Ireland’s potato famine he fled, via the so-called “famine ships”, to the United States of America, where he settled in Cincinnati.

At around the age of 29 he started his career at Boyle, Miller and Co’s wholesale liquor house, working as a drayman. Incredibly this involved him helping in the ‘Underground Railroad’ smuggling of slaves from the Southern States of America to freedom in the North. As a ‘conductor’ smuggling slaves in whiskey barrels, he risked fines, jail, and at worst, physical retribution.

Having worked his way up and investing in the distillery, in 1865 after Boyles death he became principle owner with Hamilton Miller. Following the end of the Civil War he wasted no time in expanding, building a second distillery, known as the ‘Willow Run Distillery’. It began operating in 1866 with Thomas Hewitt (McRoberts' son-in-law) as manager. By now William McRoberts was known as a ‘Master Distiller’.

Unfortunately this success was tempered with the death of one of his five children and then, soon after, his wife. Having four remaining children to care for, he remarried, with his new wife the daughter of another distiller, who promptly made William a partner in his company. By now his eldest boy had also joined the liquor business. At this point in time, McRoberts was a principal with the Boyle Distillery in Cincinnati as well as the Willow Run Distillery and in his own name the McRoberts Distillery in Peoria Illinois.

More drama was to visit in 1867 with a fire that destroyed his first distillery (the Boyle Distillery). Not one to be easily discouraged, William rebuilt at great cost only for a second fire to strike in 1869. His lack of resources and being burdened by (barrel excise) taxes, led to the Hamilton Miller partnership being dissolved in 1871 and loosing all other Distillery interests. He continued to work in the Industry and also to try and recover taxes from the Federal Government. Alas to no avail.

William John McRoberts died in 1876, five months after falling under a train carriage.

Twenty-two years From draysman to successful distillery owner to tragic death. William McRoberts lived the kind of story from which novels are made……and now 141 years after his death a Distillery called the McRobert Distillery will rise in Armadale, Western Australia to continue the journey.

So it’s no cliché to say that Whiskey is in Shane and Ian’s blood. And we’re not just talking about most night of the week {and sometimes late into Sunday morning if it was a big session at the Gate} Optional.
Cheers

Historian
The Honourable Mr Chris Newman.